By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The Real IRA, the group that carried out the worst bomb attack of the Northern Ireland Troubles, has declared a "complete cease-fire," but the announcement will not expected to affect a crackdown on members of the dissident group by the Irish and British governments.
The organization, which planted the Omagh bomb that killed 29 and injured more than 200 on Aug. 15, said it had declared "a complete cessation of all military activity" beginning last Monday at midnight.
The 29th victim of the bombing died Sunday after 21 days on a life-support. Sean McGrath, a 6-year-old retired baker, who was married with three children, had traveled to Omagh for a haircut. Two women remain critically ill and 29 other people are still recovering in the hospital.
In a statement to RTE, the Real IRA, which split from the Provisional IRA after the July 1997 cease-fire, said the decision followed "intense consultations" in recent weeks.
Three days after the Omagh bomb, the group "suspended" military activities and there has been pressure on it to end violence for good.
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The 32 County Sovereignty Movement, to which the Real IRA is linked, welcomed the cease-fire, but remained defiant. In a statement, its national executive called the Real IRA’s announcement "conscientious," but added: The British may hope that by co-opting some within the wider republican family into accepting British sovereignty . . . that they have secured their rule in Ireland. We pledge to intensify our efforts to dash these hopes and to secure a just and lasting peace based on Irish national sovereignty."
The Real IRA’s announcement leaves only the Continuity IRA still committed to violence. The group, which is regarded as the military wing of Republican Sinn Fein, said in a call to the Irish Times that it would not be declaring a cease-fire.
The caller to the newspaper, who used a recognized codeword, said the Continuity IRA had fired on an RUC vehicle in Armagh at the weekend and that the "struggle goes on." The RUC had no record of the incident.
The Irish National Liberation Army has also called a "complete" cease-fire after 20 years of violence and apologized to its victims.
The taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, gave the announcement a muted welcome, describing it as an "important and a positive development," but added, "It will not, unfortunately, bring the dead of Omagh back to life, heal the injured or comfort their families."
Ahern also said the cease-fire announcement would not affect "the unrelenting determination of the two governments to pursue the perpetrators of this and other crimes, and bring them to justice."
President Mary McAleese, on a state visit to Australia, said in Sydney that there had never been a problem in Ireland that justified the shedding of blood.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office welcomed the decision but added: "We shall be watching carefully to see if the Real IRA cease-fire is matched by word and deed."